November 29th - Eve of St. Andrew’s Day (Andrzejki)
This a special night for young Polish girls who want to find a husband. On this night and the next day, fortunes are told. Andrzejki (pronounced an-dzey-ki) is the day of St. Andrew, in Poland, the holiday is celebrated on the night of the 29th through 30th of November. Traditionally, the holiday was only observed by young single girls, though today both young men and women join the party to see their future.
There were many rituals and games associated with the celebration of Andrzejki. On the eve of St. Andrew, maidens let their imaginations go by reading the future from various signs. Boys and girls would draw cards from under their pillow with names written on them; this would tell them the name of their future mate. Dreams were also prophetic, especially since girls would retire after a long day of fasting and earnest prayers to St. Andrew. They would ask him to send dreams of their ideal bachelor - a handsome, good, wise and rich man - who was destined to be their husband. To protect themselves from nightmares, girls would eat three pieces of garlic before bedtime.
Today, Poles celebrate Andrzejki as an occasion to gather and have fun. Some of the old games or rituals have been adapted to contemporary times. For example, you can tell fortunes using wax or little plates, as well as predict who will marry next.
The most popular way is by melting wax and pouring it into a bowl of cold water. The wax could also be poured through the hole of a key, which “opened” the future and helped predict the future of the person pouring the wax.
Wax is then picked up from the water, raised to the light, and the girls try to see the similarities of it to real objects. Depending on the shapes, fortunes are told for the following year. If nothing meaningful comes up, there is always a chance that a girl will dream of something important dealing with her future, that night - but only if she could remember it.
In another traditional way of fortune telling, girls stand in a circle leaning over a bowl of water with a small floating walnut shell containing a tiny lighted candle. Each girl pastes a slip of paper with the name of a favored young man on the inside edge of the bowl above the water. To whichever name the lighted candle sailed to and burnt, a marriage proposal from him could be expected.
Also, during the day, a girl counts to the fourteenth post on a fence to see what her future husband will look like - fat, thin, short, tall, old, young. In another game, a scarf, a ribbon, and a rosary are placed separately under three plates. A girl, her eyes blindfolded, turns around three times while other girls rearrange the plates. If she draws a scarf, it means marriage; a ribbon - single for another year; rosary - becomes a spinster or a nun.
One game that Poles played at Andrzejki celebrations was to predict the future by hiding symbolic items under small plates or bowls. Blind-fate directed the hands of girls who chose these items and sealed their future. If the cup hid a ring or ribbon from a married woman’s cap, the girl was sure to marry in the future; a rosary meant she was headed for the convent; a leaf or flower meant the girl would be an old maid; myrtle meant she would be a bridesmaid; a rag doll meant that the girl would give birth to a child out of wedlock; if the girl chose the plate that hid earth, this predicted death.
Another popular Andrzejki game involves unmarried young women. Participants line their shoes up in a straight line one after the other starting at the back of a room. After all the shoes are lined up, the person at the end takes their shoe and puts it at the front of the line, and so on, until someone's shoe reaches the door. It's believed that the owner of the first shoe to cross the threshold will be the first one to get married.
But whether you believe in fortune-telling or not, today Andrzejki is mainly about having fun with your friends and enjoying your youth - while you still have it!